May 6, 2009
One of the best performances I took in at SXSW this year was an afternoon set from by Shreveport, Lousiana’s iwrestledabearonce. Known for their genre-defying brutal shows, this is a band that's doing something new and amazing. But what exactly are they doing?
I connected with guitarist Steve Bradley while the band was on tour to said what his take on that question is.
RC: So you guys are in Houston right now?
SB: Hell yes, nice and sweaty.
RC: How’s the tour going?
SB: It’s good. But it’s warm, very, very warm here. We’re ready to get back up out of the humidity. But what can you do?
RC: Aren’t you from the South?
SB: We’re from Louisiana, but it doesn’t make it any less miserable. That’s why we’re in a band – to get away from the humidity. It’s the only reason I play guitar.
RC: So the whole reason I wanted to track you guys down to chat was that I caught iwrestledabearonce at SXSW and I was blown away.
SB: Well, thank you. That was a terrible show, too. We had like three minutes to do a sound check and everything, because it was like 900 bands, really rushed and crazy, and onstage they had no monitors going for us. It was exciting. It was a good time.
The show was fun for sure. The show was crazy, but we’re artistes, and we’re douchebags. When we can’t hear stuff we complain.
RC: Well you had the kids lined up around the block from 7:00 or so that morning.
SB: That was nuts. I don’t know what they were all doing there that early. We didn’t get there that early, so I don’t know what they were thinking.
RC: Well, I’ll be catching you in Detroit in a few weeks.
SB: That show should be good. It should be fun; we got no excuses on that one.
RC: So then let’s talk a little about the band. What are you guys doing? What’s this sound?
SB: I have no idea. They put a sticker on our new album that says electro-jazz-metal-tech-triphop-grind or something. That kind of sums it up.
RC: I think that’s about what I saw in Texas, too. Just a little bit of everything. What influences your sound?
SB: I don’t know; I guess just trying to do something different. We’ve all grown up listening to all different kinds of music, and everyone in our band has diverse and different tastes in music, so it just comes out when we write because we don’t want to rehash what’s been done a million times. It’s pointless to be in a band on tour if you’re going to sound like everything else that’s already been done.
RC: That’s one of the things I like about your show. I was catching complex jazz riffs, in addition to this full-blown grindcore.
SB: That’s the kind of compliment we like to hear, that you haven’t heard something like it before. None of us really know theory or technical stuff; John and I, the guitarist who writes the stuff, we just hear weird stuff in our head and figure out how to play it.
SB: People always ask us crazy technical questions, and we don’t know any of that stuff. I guess that also is what influences us; no knowing the stuff you’re supposed to know to play guitar.
RC: So then, if you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, it’s easier to break the rules?
SB: I guess so, I don’t think we’re ground-breakingly, jaw-droppingly awesome or anything like that, but we just don’t really care about trying to fit into whatever you’re supposed to be doing.
Some of the parts in our songs, like in “Tastes Like Kevin Bacon,” which is one of the songs people know the most, we have an ‘80s dance part to it. John was messing around with it on his computer, and said “we can never use this for anything.” I said, “That’s exactly why we’re going to put it in the song we’re writing right now.” That’s our inspiration for writing, just to do whatever makes us happy, and hopefully people will be on board.
RC: It seems like there’s a definite element of humor to your music, too.
SB: Titles, yes - the lyrics not really. It’s funny, the lyrics will all be serious, and have meaning, but with the song titles, I mean you can only take stuff like this so seriously, before it gets ridiculous, so you might as well just make it ridiculous from the get go.
We’re idiots, really. It’s not like we’re trying to be anything. We’re just literally idiots who name songs after stupid inside jokes. Like “Still Jolly After All These Years” is named after a t-shirt our old bassist found at Goodwill and wore every day. He was a big fella, so it was a XXL shirt, that said “Still Jolly After All These Years.”
RC: So how did you guys all get together in the first place?
SB: Our other guitarist and I have been in bands together for 10 years, and we both weren’t doing anything, and Krysta and I were dating, she moved down to Lousiana to live with me. My old band had been on tour with her old band, so we met like that. And we decided we were done with heavy music, we were going to do something soft, something Portishead-sounding, just simple weird stuff, and then we decided we missed playing heavy music, and breaking stuff on stage, so we decided to play heavy music again, but combine it with the soft stuff.
So all of us but Krysta had known each other, then she and I started dating and she stared singing with us. We were all living together, and said “let’s start writing music.” We recorded that EP literally in my bedroom on my terrible home computer, and it turned into this.
RC: And the new album?
SB: Comes out June 2, and it’s a lot better than the old stuff. Well it’s different than the old stuff, but it’s still similar. I mean we didn’t take any crazy turns, but more thought was put into it, and the heavy stuff is a little crazier, and the soft stuff is more electronic – weirder.